• Authoritative Guide for Shipping Wine Online in Extreme Weather

    Polar vortexes, 100-year floods, Cat 5 hurricanes, wild brushfires, high-intensity tornadoes, extended heat spikes. As these weather events become more common, shipping wine becomes riskier.

    Conventional wisdom said wine shipping occurred only in the spring or fall. But given the unpredictable weather we are experiencing as climate change accelerates, this idea no longer holds. We need to approach shipping wine with a new mindset.

    How Extreme Temperatures Impact Shipping Wine

    Wine is a perishable product. When subjected to extreme temperatures, your wine purchases may not arrive in the condition you expect. For years, wine shipping in the heat of the summer has been discouraged. If the internal bottle temperature rises above 80°F, wine can begin to deteriorate. Nearing 86°F and above, wine starts to cook, and the pressure will begin pushing the cork out. 

    Wine and air begin to seep through the cork, leading to oxidation of the wine. The taste will not be fresh but subdued with cooked flavor characteristics.

    Extreme Temperatures Impact Shipping Wine

    You may not realize that extreme cold temperatures impact wine too. Due to its alcohol content, wine freezes at a lower temperature than water, around 20 – 22°F. Freezing can damage the wine, the cork, and the bottle. Wine not adequately protected during shipping can suffer significantly when external temperatures approach 5°F. When water freezes, it expands as anyone who has left a bottle in the freezer knows. The same thing happens to wine. The liquid expands, and the pressure either pushes the cork out or breaks the bottle. When the cork pushes out, wine can leak out and air can leak in, enabling oxidation. 

    Unlike red wine, during white wine production, winemakers intentionally initiate cold stabilization as a way to remove tartrates that can develop when the wine is chilled. They bring the temperature down to around 32°F to remove the tartaric acid ahead of time. Although the tartrates are harmless, most consumers prefer not to have ‘floaties’ in their wine.

    Options for Avoiding Temperature Issues During Extreme Weather

    To avoid risking your wine, you don’t want the internal temperature of the wine inside the container to fall below freezing or reach 80 degrees or above for any length of time while in transit.

    Here are some considerations about wine shipping to avoid extreme-weather issues: 

    • The temperature of your wine at the source versus the delivery location.
    • The type of packaging used: styrofoam, though not environmentally friendly, insulates pretty well.
    • Find out if heated or cooled climate-controlled warehousing and transport are available.
    • Determine if your wine ships by ground or air. Air is more expensive but faster, so the wine spends less time in the extreme temperature.
    • Find out if your wine will sit in a warehouse before shipment and where the warehouse is located.
    • Will your wine have to spend the night in another hot or cold warehouse or truck while in transit?
    • Send your wine to a location, such as a business, reducing the time the wine will be subject to the weather.
    • Buy full cases instead of smaller packs. Two to six-bottle shippers, even with styrofoam, will suffer more of an impact than a 12-bottle case. 
    • Hold your wine at the source until temperatures drop or rise.
    • Ask your wine shipper to ship at the beginning of the week, preferably on a Monday or Tuesday so the wine does not sit over a weekend.
    • Don’t purchase wine during extreme weather. Wait for more favorable conditions.

    Know that couriers, such as Fedex and UPS, and retailers do not offer insurance to protect the wine against extreme temperatures.

    Your local grocery store or wine shop, and other wine retailers, receive deliveries year-round. Before buying wine during months with extreme weather from a local retailer, ask when it was delivered and under what conditions. Some local distributors and retailers might not have climate-controlled warehouses or refrigerated trucks. Imported wines tend to be shipped in climate-controlled containers. However, not always because these containers are expensive.

    Wine shipping and distribution go on every day all across the country, so buyers beware. 

    And don’t leave your wine in a car outside in extreme cold or heat. It will perish quickly.

    wine shipping is changing along with climate change


    With Changing Climate, Wine Shipping is Changing Too

    If your wine makes it across the ocean or the country, it can still be damaged on the way to your house.While the entire door-to-door process is critical, the riskiest times are during the staging and trucking phases, when the wine is more exposed to the elements.

    Major transportation companies closely monitor weather forecasts, using them for optimal delivery times. Sophisticated tools allow for ongoing evaluation.

    These companies offer various delivery options:

    • next day air
    • shipping to a business address
    • holding wine at a store for pick-up
    • holding it for future delivery
    • adding ice packs to keep wine cool during transit
    • using styrofoam shippers for better insulation year-round

    Each of these has benefits and drawbacks, so determine which works best for your situation.

    Every winery, big-box retailer, or online retailer should have a shipping policy that considers temperatures and weather events.

    With regard to ice packs, note that most ice packs will melt within 48 hours. So, if you’re shipping across the country in the heat and transit time is more than 3 days, the addition of ice packs may not protect your wine during the entire journey.

    Some wineries only ship twice a year. While this may seem ridiculous in our instant gratification culture, you need to understand it and plan accordingly.

    Find out which weekday wines are shipped, if there will be in-transit stops or delays, and if the wine will sit in a warehouse or on a truck open to the elements for any length of time.

    If a company doesn’t have a policy or the policy states that they are not responsible for weather-damaged wine, reconsider buying from them. 

    Changing climate means changing wine purchasing habits. It will be increasingly challenging ordering wine on demand and serving it at tomorrow night’s dinner party.

    If you want wine delivered for Valentine’s Day or a Labor Day picnic, plan your purchases ahead of time so weather events won’t delay your enjoyment.

    What Else Wine Lovers Need to Know about Shipping Wine

    What Else Wine Lovers Need to Know about Shipping Wine

    Wine producers want their wine to make it to your door in optimal condition, but they are not in control of the entire transportation chain. Educate yourself about weather risks. Only buy from responsible parties who will ensure quality and service from a winery to your door or local retailer. Check out the policies of wine clubs and online wine retailers as well. At the end of the day, you are ultimately responsible for safe delivery of your wine. When you purchase wine online, legal ownership (title) transfers to you based on when and where you purchase it.

    Wine and alcohol are treated differently than other products, because of state and federal regulations. This is why you need to be aware of all shipping policies and implications.

    Shipping methods and conditions are essential factors that impact the quality of wine served in your home. 

    In the future, shipping policies may become linked to discussions about wine labeling. New technology may become available that will share this information with retailers, and perhaps consumers.

    But if you don’t want to risk spoiling your expensive Burgundy or your top-flight Bordeaux, buy and ship only during optimal times, when the weather is not an issue. If you intend to cellar quality wine, shipping is considerably more critical. Don’t gamble on buying expensive wine to hold for ten or 15 years. The wine might have a shorter shelf-life than expected. How sad would it be upon opening a special bottle if the cork had pushed out when you first bought the wine?

    Case by Case Wines Knows the Ins and Outs of Wine Shipping

    Case by Case Wines Knows the Ins and Outs of Wine Shipping

    At Case by Case Wines, we take great care with our wines from source to endpoint. With our years of experience in all aspects of the business, we know the risks and ask the right questions. Every wine we sell has been properly transported and stored, so it arrives ready to drink or hold for a special occasion. 

    If you care about maintaining the integrity of the wine you purchase, work with an expert like Case by Case Wines.

  • The Real Story About How Alcohol is Measured in Wine and Why it Matters

    Alcohol levels in wine have been creeping up for years. The sweet spot for alcohol by volume (ABV) used to be around 12% to 13%. High alcohol wines at +14% and even +15% abound in today’s marketplace. 


    What you might not know about ABV is what wine producers put on the label isn’t the real story. The real story is that the alcohol level in the bottle can be higher or lower. What does that mean to the average wine drinker?

    Let’s start with the rules. 



    Required Alcohol Content Disclosures for Wine

    The U.S. government, through the Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Department of the Treasury, created an alcohol content disclosure code for all wines sold in the country, both domestic and imported. 


    You can find the alcohol content requirements for wine here: 27 CFR 4.36. In layman’s terms, this means:

    1. Disclosure on the wine label
    • required for wines with alcohol levels greater than 14%
    • voluntary for wines with less than 14% ABV
    • not required for “table” or “light” wines
    1. Must be stated as a % of alcohol by volume and the ABV shown on the label must be within a range of:
    • 1% for wines stated as more than 14% ABV 
    • 1.5% for wine stated as 14% or less 


    Some producers label their wines at 12.5% giving them the flexibility of a range of 11% to 14% in the bottle.

    For math geeks, the calculation is: 

    ABV = (Original Specific Gravity – Final Specific Gravity)/7.36 * 1000. 

    Specific gravity measures the density of a wine and is used to measure the level of alcohol in the finished wine. It must be adjusted for temperature. Winemakers use refractometers and hydrometers to estimate final alcohol levels during the winemaking process. 

    The Real Story About How Alcohol is Measured in Wine and Why it Matters

    What Does This Mean for Wine Drinkers?

    Most importantly, the percentage of alcohol in the bottle is often not what it shows on the label. This is due to the fact that US Regulations, as determined by the TTB, allow for wiggle room in labeling wine and alcoholic beverages. Think about that the next time you purchase Zinfandel with a label that shows 15.5% ABV. The wine inside could be up to 16.5% ABV. If you buy a wine thinking it is (only) 14% ABV, it could be as high as 15.5%.


    If you have ever tasted vodka or grain alcohol, you know that alcohol gives you a warm or hot sensation. The same happens in wine depending on how high the alcohol level is. 

    You can sense the alcohol from the way the wine feels in your mouth. The way a wine feels in your mouth is called the ‘body’ of the wine. The higher the alcohol, the stronger and more viscous the wine tastes and feels. The lower the alcohol, the lighter the wine tastes and feels. The same holds true for the impact of the alcohol in your body: the higher the alcohol, the more you will feel its effects.


    Wines can range in alcohol from around 5% to as much as 20%. There is no ‘ideal’ level of alcohol. Preferred levels depend on the winemaker and the wine drinker.

    The balance of alcohol, acidity, sweetness and tannins interplay in the final taste of a wine. When people talk about a ‘balanced’ wine, they mean that none of these elements stand out more or less than any other.


    However, some winemakers and wine drinkers may prefer an ‘out of balance’ wine, one that is sweeter, more acidic, more tannic or higher in alcohol. 

    This is partly because some people taste alcohol as bitter or as sweet, while for most of us the taste is neutral. Everyone has their preferences. 

    Wine Drinkers

    How Winemakers Control Alcohol Levels

    The amount of potential alcohol starts in the vineyard. As grapes ripen and harvest approaches, the natural sugars in the grapes increase. As the amount of grape sugars increase, so too does the potential alcohol in the final wine increase.

    Then in the winery, grapes go through alcoholic fermentation, which is a chemical process. Yeast (either natural or added) converts the sugars in grapes into alcohol. It is here where winemakers determine the amount of alcohol for the style of wine they want to make. 

    For a dry wine, most sugars are converted into alcohol. For a sweeter wine, the winemaker stops fermentation when the desired level of sweetness is reached. Every wine has at least some level of remaining sugar because not all sugars convert


    For most winemakers, a wine is considered “dry” when there is less than 1 gram/Liter of residual sugar. Most tasters would have a hard time detecting sugar in a wine with less than 0.7 grams/Liter of residual sugar; the perception of the wine would be dry.

    Also, as the alcohol level changes, certain complex esters are released. These are compounds which impact the taste and smell of the wine. 

    Most winemakers intend to create balanced wines. Every wine will have a unique combination of sugar, alcohol, acidity, and tannin (for red wines.)

    Winemakers can supplement sugar or alcohol after fermentation by adding sugar or grape juice or additional alcohol, for example, in a fortified wine. Adding water to dilute a wine that is too alcoholic is another way to manipulate a wine. 

    There is also a mechanical way to reduce or remove alcohol (de-alcoholisation) from a wine by using a spinning column or centrifuge to lightly heat the wine in a process in which alcohol is evaporated. This is how non-alcoholic beer and wines are produced.

    In most wine regions, local regulations determine what winemakers can or can’t add to a wine.

    Winemakers Control Alcohol Levels

    Alcohol Measurement Tips to Remember

    1. Higher sugar accumulation in grapes = higher alcohol.
    2. Hotter, warmer climates and regions tend to produce wines higher in alcohol.
    3. More sugar converted into alcohol during fermentation = higher alcohol and drier (less residual sugar) wine.
    4. Wines with higher tannin levels tend to have higher alcohol to stay in balance.
    5. The % ABV on the label is not necessarily the % in the wine. It can be within a range.
    6. Alcohol levels don’t change after wine is bottled (unless the wine is flawed and re-ferments in bottle due to some residual sugar)
    7. Serving temperatures impact the sense of alcohol in the mouth: colder temperatures will mute the sensation of alcohol and make the wine taste “cooler” and less “hot” in the mouth and throat.
    8. When wine is heated during cooking, the alcohol is reduced.


    Case by Case Wines Knows the Details of Winemaking

    With decades of experience in all aspects of the wine trade, Case by Case Wines knows all the secrets of the business. Our professional staff scours the world seeking out the best wines at the best value. We won’t sell you adulterated wines or wines with added sugar. You get pure wines made with care and integrity. Trust us to deliver quality wines at reasonable prices.

    Consider signing up for the Case by Case Wines subscription box. Our goal is to deliver delicious cases of wine for a great price with ease. Our cases allow you to choose your own adventure. Our case selections continually rotate, so you are guaranteed to have a new tasting experience with every shipment.

  • Donatella: Elevating Italian Women in Wine and Crafting Exceptional Wine

    Donatella: just one name, a well-known name in the Italian fashion world. Her brother, Gianni, founded the famous fashion empire Versace. But Donatella Versace is not the only famous Donatella in Italy.

    Donatella Cinelli Colombini created a sensation in the wine industry when she launched her all-female winery, Casato Prime Donne in Montalcino.  The savvy female wine experts of this unique wine estate craft five different Brunello di Montalcino wines.


    Creating Possibilities for Women in Wine

    Donatella Cinelli Colombini is an extraordinary woman and an extraordinary Italian. Bucking Italian tradition and history, she built a wine empire utterly new. 

    A strong advocate for women, she walks the walk for women in the wine business. 

    Her vision extends beyond the winery to an entire project called Progetto Prime Donne which includes:

    • The Casato Prime Donne award for women in journalism and photography for work related to Montalcino and its wine
    • A permanent gallery hosting the winning photographs dedicated to the RAI journalist Ilda Bartolini 
    • The Prime Donne trail snaking through the vineyards featuring quotations from award winners and works from local artists

    Each of the four parts of the Progetto Prime Donne unites women with the wines of Brunello. 

    For the second time, Donatella also heads the Associazione Nazionale Le Donne del Vino as president. Started in 1998, Le Donne del Vino promotes wine culture and women’s role in the culture of wine and the wine trade.

    Donatella focuses not only on supporting women in wine, but also on advancing the knowledge and education of the Brunello wine region.

    Donatella’s Creative Mind

    Donatella’s Creative Mind

    The genesis of the Prime Donne project arose from the patriarchal nature of Italian culture and the wine business in Italy. When Donatella searched for a cellar master, she was told none were available nor would be for several years. 


    What they meant was that no MALE cellar masters would be available.

    The day Donatella decided to hire a woman as a cellar master changed her trajectory. From then on, she hired only women, and Progetto Prime Donne blossomed. 


    From the beginning of the project over 20 years ago, the steadfast presence of Barbara Magnani has been key to the success of Donatella’s wineries. She remains a consultant and the trainer of two new winemakers while recently starting her own wine shop. 


    Donatella hired four wine professionals to taste and blend the wines. Two of them are Masters of Wine, Rosemary George and Madeleine Stenwreth. German wine expert Astrid Schwarz and Italian sommelier and educator Daniela Scrobogna complete the team.

    As if she hasn’t done enough, Donatella researched Montalcino’s native yeasts at the request of the EU. Her research resulted in the extensive use of local yeasts in the making of Brunello wines.

    Preserving History and Creating the Future

    Preserving History and Creating the Future

    Donatella’s well-known Montalcino family, Cinelli Colombini, has owned the historic property, on which Casato Prime Donne lies, since the late 16th century. Mostly used for hunting by the men of the family, Donatella’s mother inherited the land from her mother. 

    Her lineage of women set an example, leading her to the name Casato Prime Donne. The name loosely translates to “house of first ladies.” 


    Both Donatella and her brother are active in the wine business. Her brother, Stefano, manages the acclaimed Fattoria dei Barbi winery also in Montalcino, which was previously managed by another female relative. 


    Because of the history dating from the Middle Ages, Donatella, also an artist and historian, dedicates time and resources to restoring and maintaining all aspects of her heritage.

    Along with Casato Prime Donne, Donatella owns Fattoria del Colle. This winery lies in the southern part of Chianti, about a 30-minute drive from Prime Donne.


    Ever ambitious, Donatella replanted all vineyards, built new wineries, and then implemented organic viticulture. Grapes are hand-harvested. An expanded Fattoria del Colle caters to visitors. The property includes apartments, rooms, villas, a restaurant, and a wellness center.

    She also wrote a tourism manual, has been active in marketing the region for tourism, and teaches wine tourism at the university level. Donatella’s vision created an amazingly rich experience for those who work with her and for those who visit.


    About the Wine

    Donatella hired winemaker Valerie Lavigne, a Bordeaux-trained enologist, to manage Casato Prime Donne. From 96 acres of Sangiovese vineyards, the estate produces 150,000 bottles annually. 


    Crafted from the Sangiovese Brunello grape, the wines of Casato Prime Donne are powerful. A reputation for elegance and precision is widely held. Well-balanced, the wines exhibit distinctive aromatics. They showcase deep and complex flavors and a lightness on the palate.

    By adding the innovative use of concrete fermentation tanks and native yeasts, Donatella brought creativity and new thinking into Montalcino winemaking.  Due to intricate crafting, the wines maintain their traditional character even with these innovations.


    Wines age in 500-liter oak casks for a minimum of two years versus the traditional aging in 225-liter barriques. Additional aging takes place in bottle for at least a year. More extended aging allows for further development and elegance in the wines. Such careful attention has resulted in high praise for these wines around the globe. Vintage Report from James Suckling: “The 2015 vintage is an historical year for Brunello, and nobody should miss it.” 

    You can order the 2015 Marchesi Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello di Montalcino here. Don’t miss it. Order yours today!

  • Are We Over Carbonic Maceration in Wine Yet? Should We Be?

    Paleo Wine.  Keto Wine. Orange wine. Natural wine. Pet-Nat. Carbonic Maceration. So many trends come and go. Let’s take a look at carbonic maceration to see where it stands. Will this worldwide trend last?

    Paleo Wine

    What is Carbonic Maceration?

    Made famous with the world-class wines of the Beaujolais wine region in France, carbonic maceration (“CM”) is a production method that makes lively, fruity wines that drink well young.

    Beaujolais lies at the southern end of the more famous Burgundy wine region, but the two are distinct, perhaps no more so than in the use of CM.


    CM is a form of anaerobic fermentation, a natural process historically, but adapted over time for use in wine and coffee. Anaerobic means oxygen-free. In CM, carbon dioxide (CO2) replaces oxygen.


    Burgundy favors traditional wine-making techniques for their elegant and savory Pinot Noir-based wines. The juice from de-stemmed pressed grapes ferments with oxygen exposure and yeasts. There are a few producers in Burgundy using whole-berry fermentation as an alternative.


    To clarify fermentation terms: 

    “whole berry” – traditional yeast fermentation in which winemakers selectively add whole bunches of berries to pressed fermenting must “whole cluster or whole bunch” – fermentation of full clusters of grapes, including stems  “carbonic maceration” – same as whole cluster and takes place in a closed tank in which carbon dioxide (CO2), which results from fermentation displaces the oxygen in the tank, creating a pressurized system.


    Beaujolais winemakers perfected the use of whole cluster and CM to create fresh and fruity Gamay-based wines. Burgundy wines showcase higher tannins and colors with muted aromas and silky deep-red fruit flavors. Beaujolais wines display lighter tannins and color, lower acid, and more aromatics, with bright, almost sweet fruit flavors. Gamay produced using CM can reveal cotton candy, bubble gum, or banana-like flavors. The enzymes activated in CM reduce acid levels in the wine.


    In traditional fermentation, the grape must (juice from pressed grapes) turns into wine as yeast and oxygen convert grape sugars into alcohol. 


    In CM, the grape sugars convert to alcohol while the juice remains in the berry. Grapes are not pressed but placed into the tank in full clusters with stems.


    Berries at the bottom of the tank burst due to the weight of the other grapes and start yeast fermentation, releasing CO2.  Enzymes within the remaining whole berries ferment the juice inside (called intracellular fermentation.)


    When the alcohol level reaches around 2%, whole berries burst, and yeast fermentation takes over completing the process.


    CM changes the flavors of all wine grapes, but it is mostly used with red varieties because the flavors produced with white varieties were perceived as unappealing. This view seems to be changing. 

    CM produces wines meant to be drunk young, while the traditional method favors wines for aging.


    In France, nouveau wines can also be called “vin de primeur”, “vin jeune,” or « vin de l’année.” Don’t confuse “vin de primeur” with Bordeaux’s “en primeur” selling process.

    Carbonic Maceration

    A Short Bit of History

    Historically, most wines underwent CM to some degree. Whole clusters were placed in deep containers that reduced oxygen exposure at the bottom of the vessel.


    Rioja winemakers used this method before the influence of Bordeaux. Some still use it to boost aromas and smooth out tannins.


    Louis Pasteur experimented with oxygen versus CO2 in wine in the 1870s. Other French scientists conducted trials in the early 1900s.


    In the 1960s, Beaujolais négociant, Jules Chauvet, conducted CM studies using the Gamay grape.


    The release of Beaujolais Nouveau wines created a sensation. Producersreleased these wines weeks after fermentation finished and the wine bottled. No barrel or bottle aging was required. A good marketing campaign helped propel these less expensive, easy-drinking wines in the market.


    The natural wine movement has many proponents of this technique and it has spread throughout the world due to a growing preference toward fresher, lighter wines.

    Some winemakers apply only partial CM, and there are various iterations around the world. Vintners are experimenting to reveal the unique expression of each grape variety and terroir.


    Grape Varieties and Locations

    Nouveau style wines are being made not only from the Gamay variety, but from just about any red grape: 

    • Bonarda
    • Cabernet Franc
    • Carignan
    • Carménère
    • Cinsault
    • Grenache
    • Malbec
    • Merlot
    • Pais
    • Pinot Noir
    • Sangiovese
    • Syrah
    • Tempranillo
    • Valdiguié
    • Zinfandel

    Some vintners create distinctive white wines with CM from Chardonnay, Gruner Veltliner, Marsanne, Pinot Gris, Riesling, or Trebbiano.


    Beyond Beaujolais, other countries and regions around the world embrace CM:

    • Argentina: Mendoza, Uco Valley
    • Australia: Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale, South Australia, Yarra Valley
    • California: Central Coast, Lodi, Mendocino, Napa, Santa Barbara County, Sonoma, Seiad Valley
    • Chile: Cauquenes, Itata, Maule Valley
    • France: Burgundy, Cote du Lot, Gaillac, L’Ardeche, Languedoc, Loire, Minervois, Côtes-du-Rhône
    • Hungary
    • Italy: Umbria
    • New Zealand: Central Otago, Hawkes Bay
    • Oregon: Willamette Valley
    • South Africa: Franschhoek, Paarl
    • Spain: Jumilla, Penedes, Rioja/Rioja Alavesa, Terra Alta

    Carbonic Maceration

    Why Carbonic Maceration?

    Winemakers and wine drinkers are exploring alternative vinification methods, varieties, and terroirs, resulting in an explosion of diversity. CM is one example.

    Reasons winemakers use CM include:

    • make more approachable, energetic wines
    • highlight freshness, fruitiness, and aromatics
    • soften strong tannins
    • reduce high acidity
    • add elegance and smoother texture
    • offset riper fruit coming from hotter regions
    • no aging required by either vintner or consumer
    • improve cash flow with a faster turnaround 
    • a shift in consumer preferences away from high-alcohol, heavily extracted wines to lighter, lower alcohol and fruitier wines
    • geeky experimentation and geek appeal with sommeliers
    • easier to sell at a lower price point
    • consumers can drink them right away
    • historical process seen as more natural than modern techniques
    • because they are fun to make and fun to drink


    Controversy surrounds the use of CM. Some say it doesn’t properly express terroir, shows a soda-pop mentality, or the wines are not serious or sophisticated. Some see it as a less-risk averse process.

    Sometimes wines can be cloying or too grapey. Like orange wines, those made with CM can be candy-like in flavor, cloudy in the bottle, unbalanced due to little acidity, or exhibit off aromas.


    The fun for wine lovers is in comparing different production techniques in the glass. Or in pouring something light and juicy to kick-off the weekend.

    Grab a few bottles and make your own decision!

  • The World’s Love Affair with Pinot Noir: What You Should Know

    All the world loves Pinot Noir. This wine, produced from the supremely delicate grape of the same name, is some of the world’s most expensive wine. With summer upon us, wines made from the pinot noir grape are well-matched for summer foods and lifestyles. 

    Let’s look at why wine drinkers love this grape, some of its characteristics, and the different styles around the world. 

    Wine Lovers

    Why Pinot Noir is So Attractive to Wine Lovers

    A few reasons for Pinot Noir love:

    • Versatility: The grape makes still red, white, and rosé wines, as well as sparkling wine. 
    • Expression of place: No other grape comes as close to expressing the place where it is grown, its terroir. Each location where pinot noir thrives reveals its unique characteristics in the wine.
    • Style variety: Because of this ability to express terroir, pinot noir offers winemakers a wide range of style possibilities. Growers and vintners love the challenge of this grape and are enamored of finding its singular expression in their location.
    • History: Pinot noir has been around for centuries, from Roman times through the ages of the Burgundian monks and on into today’s global passion.
    • Qualities: Pinot noir perhaps yields the most profound complex expression of wine of any grape. With its beautiful color, fresh acidity, compelling body, and complexity of aromas and flavors, wine aficionados never get tired of exploring it.
    • Food: Pinot Noir may be the most perfect red wine for pairing with almost any meal. 
    • Availability: Produced in nearly every wine-growing country, everyone can enjoy it.

    Pinot Noir

    What is Pinot Noir?

    Pinot noir means “black pinecone” because the grape bunch of the vine resembles the shape of a pinecone (“pinot”) and the berries are very dark in color (“noir.”) 


    1. delicate and thin-skinned
    2. ripens early
    3. susceptible to disease
    4. sensitive to wind, humidity, hail, frost
    5. doesn’t thrive in extreme conditions
    6. predisposed to mutation so clonal selection matters

    Conditions to thrive:

    1. cooler, more temperate climate
    2. long growing season with enough heat and sunlight to ripen
    3. low humidity to avoid or reduce the risk of disease
    4. protection from extremes (sunburn, frost, wind)
    5. nutrient-poor, well-draining soils, such as limestone, chalk, marl 
    6. low yields to concentrate the wine
    7. gentle slopes

    Wine expression:

    1. aromatic
    2. complex
    3. good length 
    4. high acidity 
    5. transparent pale red color (deeper in warmer climates)
    6. lower tannin but enough for structure and oak aging
    7. lower alcohol (higher in warmer climates)
    8. light to full body and texture

    Pinot noir grown in more fertile areas, such as mass-produced wines, have a less optimal style: fruitier, fuller in body, higher alcohol, lower acidity, and less complexity.

    Pinot Noir Regions

    Pinot Noir Regions Around the World

    The French Connection 

    While Vitis vinifera, the genus of grapevines from which fine wine comes, originated in Europe, these vines did not exist in the Americas. The Spanish brought the Mission grape to Mexico and Chile.

    The majority of Vitis vines arrived with immigrants who carried cuttings from France, Germany, Spain, and Italy to the US, Canada, Chile, and Argentina. 

    However, France remains the gold standard.

    With the ideal climate and terroir for pinot noir, more plantings exist in France than anywhere in the world. The most famous and desired Pinot Noir in the world comes from Burgundy. While the vine flourishes in other countries, no more perfect home for this grape exists.

    With limited production, Burgundy’s high-demand Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines command extraordinarily high prices, making it almost impossible for the average wine drinker to afford.

    The climate here is one with a long and cool growing season. Vines grow on tiny plots on east-facing slopes with vine density ranging from 4,000 to 10,000 vines per hectare. 

    Burgundy’s famed Cote d’Or sits on a limestone escarpment. Soils, though quite varied depending on each plot, consist of limestone, marls, gravel, clay, and sand. 

    General characteristics of the style of wine from Burgundy:

    • high levels of acidity
    • silky texture
    • an elegant balance
    • restrained yet complex flavors of:
      • cranberries, red or black cherries
      • earth, forest, mushrooms, herbs
      • floral notes, rose, violet, hibiscus
    • oaked Pinots show fuller body, rounder tannins, and vanilla notes
    • unoaked wines have bright-red cherry flavors 

    Wines of the Cote d’Or show darker fruit in the northern regions, yielding to red fruit and floral wines in the middle, and more earthy and tannic wines in the south. South of the Cote-d’Or, wines are lighter and easier drinking.


    Why Oregon Works for Pinot Noir

    Compared with France, Oregon is a baby in creating wine from pinot noir. Only recently has the industry begun to explore the concept of terroir in depth. As this knowledge expands, more nuanced wines will come to market.


    Though still very young as a wine region, Oregon has become the standard-bearer of Pinot Noir after Burgundy. 

    Similarities between Oregon and Burgundy

      Burgundy Willamette Valley
    Latitude: 47 degrees (Beaune) 45 degrees (Dundee)
    Climate: Continental Continental w/Maritime influence
    Ocean Distance:    350 miles 60 miles
    Rainfall: consistent through the year drier summers, wet winters
    Risk of hail: strong low
    Winter Temps: 30-40 degrees 35-55 degrees
    Summer Temps:    60-75 degrees 45-85 degrees
    Longest Daylight:  16 hours 15.4 hours


    Differences between Oregon and Burgundy


    Differences include geography. While Burgundy lies on eastern facing slopes, the well-known Willamette Valley in Oregon sits in an undulating valley lying between two mountain ranges. These ranges protect vineyards from rain. 

    Vineyards generally lie on south or southeast facing slopes with vine density of 2,500 to 4,000 vines per hectare.


    Unlike Burgundy, volcanic red Jory and basalt Nekia soils underlie the Valley. Other soil types include marine sediment sandstone and loess. All these soils allow for good drainage, the key to growing quality pinot noir grapes. 

     Oregon Pinot Noir style

    Characteristics of the Oregon Pinot Noir style, particularly in the Willamette Valley

    • lively acidity
    • weightier, satin-like texture
    • darker in color
    • balanced with fuller body
    • robust fruit flavors of:
      • bright red fruits like cranberries, pomegranate, red cherries
      • cherry-cola
      • mushrooms, some green notes
    • oaked Pinots are richer, with spicy vanilla notes
    • unoaked wines show tart red cherry flavors 


    Some winemakers showcase fruity characteristics, while others prefer a more restrained style. The use of natural winemaking techniques has become increasingly popular. 

    Think of Oregon Pinot Noir as a cross between Burgundy and California, unique unto itself. 

    The wines have become increasingly more expensive, though you can find quality Oregon Pinot at lower prices.

    Oregon Pinot Noir has become so popular in the US that the in-demand Pinot Camp Event held annually in the Willamette Valley has a sister event in Birmingham, Alabama.


    California Dreaming 

    Californians who were searching for cooler climates in which to plant pinot noir started the Oregon wine industry.

    In California, a hot climate, locations closer to the ocean work best for pinot noir, allowing grapes to reach optimal ripeness over a long growing season. Soils vary throughout the state, and there is less focus on terroir.

    Characteristics of Pinot Noir from California:

    • medium acidity
    • higher alcohol
    • more concentration
    • a richer, velvety texture
    • darker, riper, fuller than Oregon and Burgundy
    • fruit-forward with intense flavors of:
      • black cherry, black raspberry, candied fruit
      • cola, caramel, tea
    • oaked Pinots offer vanilla and sweet spice notes
    • unoaked show brighter but still dark berry flavors 


    California has a wide variety of styles and quality levels. Some winemakers pick later in the harvest and use extended macerations to ensure deep dark colors and flavors. Others harvest earlier with shorter macerations to create higher-acid and lighter versions. Large producers plant in hotter areas yielding less complex, more fruity, and less acidic wines.

    With so much Pinot coming from California, aficionados can find a style to suit their palate. Warmer regions, such as the Russian River Valley, produce bolder wines, while cooler areas, like Carneros, produce more subtle, relatively lighter wines.

    Other quality areas include the Sonoma Coast, the Central Coast, including Santa Barbara County, and the Santa Lucia Highlands. 

    Surprising Germany

    Surprising Germany

    To many, the fact that Germany produces red wine is a surprise, even though it has more pinot noir vineyards planted than any other country except France and the US. The country’s most important red grape, Spätburgunder (pinot noir) has grown here for centuries. 

    Most of Germany’s wine regions produce Pinot Noir, and styles vary less than in other countries. A white version is produced here. Knowing the producer matters in finding quality Pinot.


    Because Germany enjoys a relatively cooler climate, the wines are lighter in color with high acidity and a more restrained style. 


    Favorable climates and terroirs include Ahr in the north and Baden in the south. Both allow pinot noir to ripen well. German Pinot Noir shows an earthy quality. Pinot from Ahr brings out rich red berry flavors, while those from Baden tend toward rich dark fruit flavors.

    New Zealand

    Little New Zealand Makes a Big Impression

    Cool climate New Zealand, with small production, is a haven for Pinot lovers. 

    Pinot producing areas include Central Otago and Marlborough on the South Island and Martinborough on the North Island. Each produces a different style. 

    Central Otago: 

    • Surprisingly. this southernmost, highest altitude and coolest region ripens pinot noir almost as well as California. 
    • Wines have high acidity and alcohol, with medium to full body, rich fruit flavors, and a noticeable sweet-spicy finish.

    Marlborough takes the middle road of the three, producing high acid wines of medium body and more subtle red fruit flavors.


    Martinborough: The warmest region produces a dark wine with higher tannins and earthier flavors.

    pinot noir

    Italy Under the Radar

    Maybe less known, pinot nero (pinot noir) grows well in Northern Italy, the coolest climate wine region in the country. Both sparkling and still wines are produced here. 


    Still wines show similar characteristics to those from Burgundy, though more concentrated, with higher alcohol. Instead of mushroom and forest flavors, earthiness shows up as smoke or tobacco. Spice notes can be clove or pepper. Pinot noir from Alto Adige produces an aromatic, elegant wine with floral notes, and clove and deep red berry fruit flavors.

    Chile on the Move

    Pinot noir has been grown in Chile for some time though much of the quality is low. As winegrowers moved towards the coast and further south, the potential for high-quality Pinot became apparent.


    Coastal granite soils yield wines similar in style to Oregon, complex and elegant with bright acidity and floral aromas. Further south, winemakers experiment with different soils and locations. More to come from Chile.

    The Rest of the World

    The following countries plant and create wine from pinot noir: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Moldova, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK. Pinot noir grown in the UK makes lovely sparkling wines, like those of Champagne.


    Having only touched the surface of the vast variety and complexity of the world of Pinot Noir, you’ll understand why this grape and its wine are so beloved. 


    Enjoy Pinot Noir this summer and raise a glass to International Pinot Noir day on August 18!

  • Quarantine Reading: America’s Top Wine Geek – Thomas Jefferson vs Robert Parker

    Thomas Jefferson and Robert Parker, born 204 years apart, were life-long wine aficionados. Both had enormous influence in shaping America’s relationship with wine.


    Jefferson, born on April 13, 1743, died at the age of 83. Robert Parker, currently 72 years old, was born on July 23, 1947.


    Tasting his way through Europe, Jefferson developed his love of wine and his palate to become America’s first promoter of quality wine.


    Parker’s creation of the 100-point scoring system transformed how Americans, and the global wine world, thought about wine.


    But of the two, which one is America’s top wine geek?


    Different Perspectives and Motivations

    Though both men clearly loved wine, their approaches to wine, and their ultimate influence on the world of wine differed.


    Thomas Jefferson held a holistic and expansive view of wine. For him, wine reflected civilized society. An enlightened society was a wine-drinking society. He viewed wine as a bridge between cultures, politics, and science.


    Robert Parker developed a trusted and independent source of information to understand and choose wine. He intended his scoring method to provide an objective perspective of wine quality.

    Let’s look at a few similarities and differences between these two influential wine geeks.



    Though separated by more than 200 years and light-years in terms of viticulture, viniculture, and the wine landscape, these two men had much in common.


    • became wine geeks and wine travelers, though Jefferson became America’s first true wine geek and wine tourist
    • developed into wine aficionados, but not winemakers, though Jefferson did plant and experiment with grapevines mostly from a botanical and agricultural viewpoint. Parker is a partner in an Oregon winery,Beaux Frère.
    • thought, wrote, and educated others about wine 
    • appreciated European wines, especially French wines
    • sought out diverse styles and types of wines but for different ends: Jefferson to satisfy his curiosity, Parker for analysis
    • wanted wine to be accessible and inclusive for the public
    • were viewed as wine celebrities, and in some circles, snobs
    • had reputations as adept wine lovers
    • retired at nearly the same age, Jefferson at age 66 and Parker at age 67, though Parker continues to be active in professional activities


    These men differed in their philosophies about wine, which guided their journeys. 

    • Jefferson believed in:
      • wine as part of a healthy lifestyle, promoting it over hard alcohol
      • dry, lighter alcohol, flavorful, and unmanipulated wines 
      • low taxes and fair pricing to make wine affordable and accessible
      • developing personal relationships with winemakers 
      • the humbleness of winemakers, wine grape growers, and wine drinkers
      • paying for his wine, solicited or not
      • aging wine to provide greater pleasure
      • America as capable of producing a great wine industry


    Jefferson saw wine as an essential part of a healthy life and society. Wine offered relaxation, pleasure, and connection with others. He shared wine to influence opinion over it.

    Wine in Jefferson’s time was a beverage, savored, and shared with food, family, and friends.  He used wine to bring people together and ease conversation. 

    Jefferson wrote about wine for his own knowledge and shared that knowledge with others.


    • Parker believes:
      • in the consumer advocacy of Ralph Nader
      • that wine writing and criticism should be independent of the wine trade
      • consumers should have access to trustworthy information about wine quality
      • that conflicts of interest in the trade tainted many wine writers’ opinions
      • in paying for his wine, but with some evidence of conflicts of interest 
      • in more full-bodied, riper, and concentrated wines with heavier oak-influence
      • in pairing a wine’s score with accurate tasting notes to provide the consumer with an in-depth picture
      • that wine is an inherently emotional experience


    In Parker’s time, wine became a massive, competitive global industry. From his role as a consumer advocate, he expanded into education and criticism.

    In developing his 100-point scoring system, he became perhaps too influential in how Americans understood and drank wine. Today, this system is widely used.

    Parker wrote about wine for the benefit of consumers.

    While both men drank wine for the pleasure it gave, wine was Jefferson’s hobby. It was Parker’s livelihood.


    Lasting Impact


    • Advocated for American viticulture and inspired the Virginia wine industry
    • Created wine tourism as the first American to travel for wine throughout France, Piemonte and the Mosel in Germany
    • Left an extensive written legacy of wine, vineyards, and viticulture
    • Brought Vitis vinifera vines to America and established experimental vineyards at Monticello, where wine is produced today
    • Appreciated traditional winegrowing and winemaking practices specific to each location in the creation of quality wine
    • Promoted wine as part of a healthy lifestyle for the general population
    • Wanted Americans to know the joys of sharing wine with others and the benefits it brings
    • Understood the benefits of purchasing direct from the producer and avoiding middlemen
    • Promoted bottling wine instead of transporting by barrel where it could be more easily doctored
    • Believed in aging quality wines to drink them at their best
    • Drank wines with meals in the French style, though in retirement tended to drink them after dinner
    • Encouraged Americans to expand their palate beyond the common Madeiras and Ports of the day


    • Created a tool as an independent method for consumers to use in understanding wine 
    • Educated consumers on quality and value
    • Heavily influenced modern winemaking techniques resulting in wine styles that reflected his personal preferences, known as the “international” style
    • Guided America’s taste in wine toward his preferred style
    • Became the most powerful man in the wine trade in his day
    • Wine became a status symbol to be acquired and admired
    • Inadvertently assisted in the creation ofwine as a tradable commodity 
    • Through the creation of a hierarchy, wine prices rose stratospherically, putting many wines out of reach of the average consumer
    • Influenced the rise of “garagistes” in Europe, making wines in Parker’s style that were outside the European regulations 
    • His influence encouraged an expansion ofBordeaux grape varietals, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, replacing ancient and local vines


    The Men Speak for Themselves


    “No nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage. It is, in truth, the only antidote to the bane of whiskey.” 

    “I am in daily expectation of light wines (which I mostly use myself) from France and Italy.”

    “The delicacy and innocence of these wines will change the habit from the coarse & inebriating kinds hitherto only known here.”

    Jefferson never knew America’s winemaking success, so his preferences were France and Italy.

    Jefferson quotes from “Thomas Jefferson On Wine” by John Hailman


    The difference between a 97-point wine and a 100-point wine is largely an emotional one. Wines should be emotional, they should be magical. They should move you and if you aren’t moved then you’re drinking the wrong beverage.” 


    “The written commentary that accompanies the ratings is a better source of information regarding the wine’s style and personality, its relative quality vis-à-vis its peers, and its value and aging potential than any score could ever indicate.” 

    There can never be any substitute for your own palate nor any better education than tasting the wine yourself.


    Jefferson could have made this last statement as easily as Parker.

    Parker may have had this thought about the wines Jefferson preferred: 

    In the wine world, crusaders would have wine consumers believe that the only wines of merit are something completely indefinable but which they call ‘authentic’ or ‘natural.’

    America’s Top Wine Geek

    America’s Top Wine Geek

    While Parker drank wine for the pleasure it gave, he was essentially a businessman, a very successful one. He created The Wine Advocate, a massively successful wine publication. His scoring system led to an outsized influence and involvement in almost every aspect of the global wine trade.


    The scoring system and his writings are likely to remain Parker’s most significant lasting contributions. His impact on wine styles seems in decline. The long-term effects of his influence, though formidable in the past, remain to be seen.

    For Jefferson, wine grew beyond his favorite drink or hobby. Though he took great pleasure in serving the wines he loved to friends and guests at dinner parties, his beliefs about wine ran much more deeply.


    He believed adopting a culture of wine would improve Americans’ lives.

    For Jefferson, “Good wine is a necessity of life . . .” Not just a pleasure, but a necessity. Through wine, he expanded scientific knowledge, built political and commercial relationships benefiting the U.S., and promoted public health.


    In the end, Jefferson wins as America’s top wine geek. Parker’s lasting impact will likely not be as great as it was in his heyday, while Jefferson’s has increased.

    But Parker left us a most useful and appropriate comment about wine given our time of COVID-19: 

    I think of my wine cellar as security – if the apocalypse comes, I can just go down to the cellar.

  • Why is Cheese Always Paired With Wine?

    Wine lovers the world over agree that fine wine and cheese are made for each other. Two of life’s greatest culinary pleasures, delicious alone, are transformative together, creating sublime flavors far greater than the sum of their parts. The wine and cheese pairing possibilities are endless: a beautiful fresh goat cheese, tart and tangy, paired with a Sauvignon Blanc de Touraine; a gamey Pecorino Toscano with a Chianti Classico; Epoisses and Chambertin (alleged to be a favorite of Napoleon).


    But what makes wine and cheese so compatible in the first place? And if you’re a wine and cheese pairing newbie, how on earth do you develop a strategy for getting the right match?

    A Rough Guide to Wine and Cheese Pairing

    Wouldn’t it be great if you could just fling any old wine and cheese together to create something magical? The truth is that wine and cheese pairing has its own set of rules, but remember that pairing should be fun so focus on combinations you sincerely enjoy. The great news is that in this instance a little bit of knowledge can take you a long way.

    Let’s Begin With Science

    Why do wine and cheese love each other so? Foods that sit on the opposite ends of the taste spectrum often come together to create a pleasant taste sensation, and with wine and cheese it all boils down to the opposing forces of texture, acidity, fat and tannins.


    Essentially, the astringency of the wine (which causes your mouth to pucker) cuts through the fattiness of the cheese (which creates a slippery sensation in your mouth) to create a naturally balanced mouthfeel. Scientists also discovered that repeated exposure to the astringent wine—such as when you’re sipping a glass or two over dinner rather than glugging it down in one—strengthens the effect. It works as a palate cleanser.

    A study published in the Journal of Food Science showed that cheese also influences the dominant taste of a particular wine. Pairing Epoisses with Sancerre draws out pronounced citrus notes. Roquefort emphasizes the red fruit in a Bourgogne. Interestingly, researchers also found that the effect of eating cheese with wine is cumulative. Rather than becoming overwhelmed, the palate becomes more sensitive, which is great news if you’re someone who likes to save their best wines for last.


    (Feel free to share that tidbit with your friends over your next cheese board, they’re bound to be impressed.)

    Consider Age and Intensity

    Young cheeses tend to be light and delicate. As they age (a process called affinage) moisture evaporates and is replaced by fat and protein. It’s the reason that older cheeses are usually richer, more savory, and have greater depth of flavor. Storage and mold further influences these qualities.


    Wines also vary greatly, from delicate to bold and typically develop greater complexity as they age. A young wine may be fresh and bursting with bright fruit, flower, citrus or herb flavors. Older wines may be more nuanced, taking on secondary notes like toast, oak, metals, umami, etc.


    As a result, you might want to pair a young cheese with a younger wine; something crisp, a sparkling wine, a fresh and fruity number. An older cheese? You need something suitably in-your-face, a wine with plenty of body, intensity and structure.

    What Grows Together…

    The yin and yang principle behind wine and cheese pairing takes us so far, but why does one wine sometimes work best with a certain cheese?


    There is a cultural angle. French and Italian wines have been paired with regional cheeses for generations. It makes perfect sense, really, given that those wine and cheese varietals were produced in the same area. French goat cheese from the Loire is delicious with a Loire Sancerre, while Manchego is a dream with Sherry or a Monastrell.


    Maybe it’s all a happy accident but the next time you’re agonizing over which cheese to pair with an exciting new wine, you can do worse than pairing by terroir. As a technique, it’s not flawless, but it often works.

    Classic Wine and Cheese Pairings

    1. Fresh Cheese

    Mozzarella, Burrata, Chèvre (goat cheese), Feta, Ricotta, Mascarpone, Stracchino, Boursin, very young Selles sur Cher

    Classic pairings:

    • Mozzarella di Bufala and Greco di Tufo
    • Chèvre and Sauvignon Blanc de Loire

    2. Bloomy Cheese

    Brie, Camembert, Robiola, Chaource, Coeur du Neufchatel (both cow), Crottin de Chavignol

    Classic pairings:

    • Crottin de Chavignol and Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc)
    • Chaource and Champagne

    3. Washed Rind Cheese

    Fontina, Epoisses, Reblochon, Taleggio, Langres, Chaume, Livarot, Munster, Vacherin de Mont d’Or

    Classic pairings:

    • Munster and off-dry Gewürztraminer
    • Reblochon and Chignin Blanc
    • Epoisses and Chambertin

    4. Semi-Soft Cheese

    Gruyère, Gouda, Havarti, Provolone, Edam, Morbier, Mimolette

    Classic pairings:

    • Gruyère and Vin Jaune de Savoie

    5. Hard Cheese

    Cheddar, Double Gloucester, Parmesan, Pecorino, Manchego, Grana Padano, Beaufort, Cantal, Emmenthal, Sbrinz, Comté

    Classic pairings:

    • Manchego and Amontillado Sherry
    • Pecorino Toscano and Chianti Classico

    6. Blue Cheese:

    Cambozola, Danish Blue, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton, Fourme d’Ambert, Bleu d’Auvergne, Cabrales

    Classic pairings:

    • Roquefort and Sauternes or other Botrytized Sweet wine like Late Harvest Chenin
    • Gorgonzola Piccante and Vin Santo
    • Stilton and Port

    …And If You Have to Choose Just One Wine?

    If you’re looking for one wine to go with a plate of different cheeses you could try an off-dry Riesling. It’s low alcohol but has the acidity, fruitiness and minerality to suit a broad range of cheese varieties. Alternatively, a sparkling wine, dry or sweet, will step up to the occasion. Anyway, who doesn’t want another good reason to crack open another bottle of Champagne?  

    If there’s a last word to be had on this most fascinating of foodie topics, then perhaps it’s this. While science has unraveled a few of the mysteries surrounding the love affair between wine and cheese, and wine aficionados may be prepared to fight to the death about what goes with what, take a deep breath and remember that this is meant to be fun.


    Go forth with confidence, let your taste buds be your guide and you’ll be making your own exciting wine and cheese discoveries in no time.

  • How to Serve Wine: Tips and Etiquette

    Ever wondered which glasses go with which wine? Should red wine be served at room temperature? Now you’ve taken the time and effort to source the perfect wine to accompany your meal and impress your friends. It’s worth going the extra mile to get the most from your wine. At first glance, wine etiquette may seem a trifle over the top but, in fact, it’s pretty straightforward and exists to give you the best possible wine tasting experience possible. We’ve broken it down into a few simple steps that will soon have you serving like a pro.

    Wine 101: Serving Basics

    1. Select the Right Glass

    Sometimes you have to drink wine out of whatever is at hand, be it a coffee mug or plastic tumbler, we’ve all done it. However, fine wine is ​​​​​​​a pernickety beast and odd as it may seem, serving it in the correct glass will enhance the way it tastes.


    A Japanese study captured images of ethanol vapors as they varied in density and position in different shaped glasses. This may not seem like a big deal but it’s important because the vapors carry the aromatic compounds, responsible for creating the majority of flavors in wine, to your nose. So certain glass shapes best suit certain wines. Let’s break it up into white, red and special wines.


    Glasses for White Wine 

    White wine is typically served in smaller bowled glasses because it preserves floral aromas, maintains cooler temperatures, expresses acidity, and delivers more aromas simply by being in close proximity to your nose. However, full-bodied white wines like oak-aged Chardonnay are better in a larger bowl, or Montrachet glass, which emphasizes the wine’s creamy texture.


    Glasses for Red Wine 

    The aim of choosing the right red wine glass is to downplay any bitter tannins and spices and emphasize the wine’s smoother qualities. Typically, that means a glass with a wide opening, like a Burgundy or large Bordeaux glass.

    Glasses for Dessert and Sparkling Wines 

    Port just isn’t Port in any other glass. The same applies for other dessert wines, from Sherry to Sauternes. A small, narrow-topped glass reduces evaporation for these high alcohol beverages. As for Champagne flutes, well, they’re always the go-to for formal entertaining.


    Wine Glasses for Real Life 

    For most of us, it simply isn’t practical or affordable to amass a wine glass collection of epic proportions at home, whether that’s down to lack of storage space, or lifestyle (kids + dogs + wine glasses, anyone?). In which case, consider picking up some good quality universal glasses.

    A long stemmed, thin rimmed, white Burgundy glass will suffice for bubbles and most wines, and you may find they become your favorite glass. Alternatively, if you typically drink ballsy reds, for example, then invest in a few Bordeaux glasses. Be sure to buy clear, not colored, and print-free wine glasses so you can properly examine your wine.

    PRO TIP: Thinner glass rims are more expensive and fragile, but they’re so much more elegant and enjoyable to drink from.

    2. Temperature

    Does serving wine at a certain temperature affect the way it smells and tastes? Yes. Does that temperature differ from wine to wine? It does, but generally speaking we can group them by sparkling, white and rosé, and red.


    Bubbles (38°F to 45°F) 

    Some people like to pop their bubbly in the freezer for an hour before opening (just remember to get it out or it will explode), but for more impromptu affairs, nestle the bottle in an ice bucket for 30 minutes. Icy temperatures keep the bubbles fine. Once you’ve poured your first glasses, remember to leave the bottle on ice until empty. N.B. Expensive sparkling wines do better at white wine temperatures.


    White and Rosé Wine (44°F to 57°F) 

    Buying in advance? Get that white wine and rosé in the fridge as soon as you get it home. For a bottle you’ve bought the same day, leave it to cool in the fridge for several hours, or in the freezer for 30 minutes. Once poured, the wine will aerate in the glass and the aromas blossom as the temperature slowly rises. Keep white wines in the refrigerator between pours. One exception to this rule is orange wines, you can leave that on the table.


    Red Wine (53°F to 65°F) 

    Many people mistakenly believe that red wine should be served at room temperature. In fact, serving it a little cool is best. Put it in the fridge for half an hour, or in the freezer for 15 minutes before serving. After opening, leave to warm slowly.

    Light reds like Pinot Noir, for example, taste best on the cool side. The bottle should be cool to the touch and the wine cool in the mouth. Red wine served at room temperature will taste more alcoholic or “hot” and be heavier in the mouth.

    PRO TIP: Serving affordable wine at cooler temperatures will disguise any ‘off’ aromas.

    3. Serving Wine: Tools and Rules

    Before you reach for your wing corkscrew and dismiss the waiter’s friend (that fiddly multi-tool wielded with aplomb by sommeliers while being potentially lethal in the hands of anyone else), there are a few interesting reasons why certain ways of opening wine are considered ‘correct’. If you want to open wine like a pro it pays to be in the know.

    • Cut the foil: Sommeliers use their waiter’s friend knife to cut at the bottom lip, not top. Why? Because foils were historically made of lead. It also reduces drippage when pouring at the table. Foil cutters cut at the top lip, which is more aesthetically pleasing during a wine tasting, for example, when the bottle is on display.
    • Draw the cork: First, insert the cork slightly off center so that the radial diameter of the ‘worm’ (the curly part of the wine opener) is centered. This will minimize the chances of tearing the cork. Roughly seven turns is enough to reach the sweet spot.


    4. To Decant or Not Decant?

    You’ll no doubt have read that decanting is essential for improving the flavor of red (indeed, any) wine. However, not all wine experts agree. Santa Barbara-based veteran winemaker Greg Martellotto believes that wine aerates sufficiently when swirled in the glass and mouth, and that wines that are 25 years or older are so fragile that decanting can actually ‘damage’ them.


    That said, a small handful of wines do benefit from decanting, although it can be tricky to know which ones. Typically, they’ll be young, tannic wines and some older, high end Bordeaux, Burgundy and Italian wines, and some expensive Napa Cabs.  

    If you do decant, pour your fine wine into a glass pitcher for 30-45 minutes. 

    5. How to Pour Wine

    At long last, it’s time to pour. You won’t be surprised to learn that, as with every step, there are a couple of things you need to know beforehand. A standard pour tends to be between 5-6oz. (150-180 mls), even though many glasses will hold much more. The most important thing is to leave room between the top of the wine and the nose of the glass as this is where the aromas collect. Sorry, no more filling them to the top.


    PRO TIP: Hold your wine glass like a pro by grasping it at the base of the stem between your forefinger and thumb. This avoids any risk of your hands heating up the wine.

    Now that you’re fully versed on the basics of serving wine, why not get your Case by Case Wines subscription and enjoy fine wines every month to pair with wine and cheese or show off your new somm-like serving skills? Our wine experts taste 4,500 wines every year and cherry pick only the very best, be they rare vintages or under the radar gems going for a song, to eliminate trial and error.